Dear Carolyn: A relationship ended last summer in a nasty way and I said some really mean things to him. I mean REALLY mean. And what’s worse is that I did love him (and still do), but he made the terrible choice of going back to an awful ex. Yeah, that didn’t last long. I understand that the relationship is over and that I humiliated myself and he doesn’t want anything to do with me. But I also know I owe him an apology. Do you think I should reach out and tell him I’m sorry for what I did, regardless of where we stand now? I’ve accepted that we can’t go back but I would feel a lot better if he knew I’m sorry. From one C to another
Dear C: I’d say yes, tell him you’re sorry, but after asking yourself two questions: Why were you so awful to this guy, and what do you hope to achieve with your apology? Having those two things straight in your mind will give you the best chance of being fair to the guy, which should be your only concern. —Carolyn
Hi C: “Apologize”? No! — Acknowledge? Yes. If you apologize you will repeat the behavior, if not with him then another. Making yourself wrong about a result you produced invalidates the genius in you that created the result. It took you a several years to bring this anger to the surface (to include finding the perfect partner to trigger it) now you want to apologize for it? No way. You aren’t bad or wrong. Yes you did something you feel guilty about but that doesn’t make you bad or sorry. That was then, this is now. This is a brand new moment in time.
An example of an acknowledgment:
- "I have been feeling badly about having said, 'xxx.' I get that I was abusive. I get that it didn't feel good. I'm presently committed to 25 hours of counseling. I'll not be interacting with you verbally or in writing until I've heard that you also have completed 25 hours of therapy."
This is about your integrity, it’s supporting you in cleaning up (acknowledging) the original, the first such incident in your life. Most likely your anger and blame are such that your mind won't let you recall the first time you acted that way, possibly you have other incompletes with that person that now serve as barriers to experiencing the guilt associated with that abuse.
Notice that I used the word “interactions” instead of communications. In communication coaching we make the distinction between communicating and talking, exchanging words, etc. When communication takes place there is an experience of mutual satisfaction.
The most efficient way to clean up your personal relationship mess is to clean up your relationship with the first person in your life you exhibited such behavior. For all intents and purposes that person is still bleeding from your abuse, so much so that you won’t allow yourself to sustain a loving relationship with anyone. (read Reunion Conversations).
From how you talk about “awful,” your story, your memory of your childhood incident, most likely is that the other was sick or deserved it, at best they were awful to you. Sick or not it’s you that we’re concerned about. What we’re looking for is the very first argument, the name of person, day, date, the exact location, and your age. There’s a lie in the way in which you are remembering that incident. That’s what all this rage was/is about. Once you tell the truth about that incident you will find that you’ll no longer be reacting to specific things that now bug you. And, what’s cool is you’ll find that you no longer have a need to have people say or do what you’ve been getting them to do to upset you.
BTW: It works to tell the truth. You write, “A relationship ended last summer ….” as though it just happened, that you had no cause in the matter. A responsible person would have written, “I ended a relationship last summer…”
You could send him a letter right now but it would only be your “nice/guilty” act. Without cleaning up the #1 incident your attempt will not have a significant impact on anyone, especially you. And, you’ll have to set up life to create it again, giving you yet another opportunity to restore your integrity.
For certain, it won’t work to dump stuff (empty, guilt-generated words, so that you can feel good, ostensibly in hopes that he also might feel good), in his space. Especially it won’t work unless you can say in the letter that you have committed yourself to a series of counselings/therapy or a long-term support group. And, that you will not be interacting with him again until he has completed at least 25 sessions of counseling. Of course you have to absolutely mean this.
Now here’s the kicker. No matter how innocent this ex appears to be, he needs equally as much therapy. Notice that his intention has been to make you feel as guilty as you do. We know this because that’s the result his leadership-communication model produced. He communicates no responsibility in the matter. In his universe he also masterminded the whole incident, apparently to be right that you’re sicker than he is. Anyone who would date you has the same stuff going on. A person in integrity, especially someone who is whole and complete with their parents, would simply not repeatedly date you. Your incompletes are written on your face, it’s easy to tell, it’s an aura kind of thing. Only someone who is out integrity, someone needing to set up life to support himself in cleaning up some earlier incident, would date you. It appears that this ex may be a helper or an enabler. The point being, if your ex doesn't immerse himself in a healing process he too will keep producing these results, for life.
Let’s make this clear. If you start interacting with him again, before both of you have completed a minimum of 25 hours of therapy, you will keep the both of you stuck—it would not be a loving thing to do. Thank you, Gabby